Hints for Family Caregivers
Learning how to cope with the effects of Alzheimer's disease and the increasing needs of your loved one will help you deal with your own stress and anxiety. The following suggestions are offered for family caregivers:
- Take one day at a time, but prepare for the future.
- Recognize which problems you can do something about and which are beyond your or anyone else's control.
- Be realistic about your abilities and how much you can do. Don't try to do it all yourself. Don't expect to accomplish all the things you were able to do before you became a caregiver.
- Be forgiving of yourself if things don't go just right - your loved one may quickly forget an oversight or mishap.
- Find out what resources are available and use them. Ask family and friends to help and accept their help when offered. If you think other family members aren't helping as much as they could, talk to them honestly.
- Be good to yourself. Remember that you deserve some pleasure; take time to see a movie or visit with friends.
- Keep your sense of humor.
- Find ways to express your feelings. Find a friend you can talk to or attend a support group meeting.
Adapted from "Especially for the Alzheimer Caregiver" from the Alzheimer's Association.
Arguments are useless and, in fact, make matters worse. Confusion, memory loss, and frustration are making the person behave irrationally and you can't "argue" them out of it.
Allow as much freedom and independence as possible, while keeping safety and comfort in mind.
Actions help when verbal communication may fail. Help the patient by demonstrating what you mean, or sometimes, by starting them in the activity.
Assume that the person may understand and hear what you say even if they are confused. Do not say things to others in front of them as if they are deaf.
Appreciate good moments or good days, even though the person's ability is not going to remain that way.
Appropriate activities help patients pass the time meaningfully and productively and reduce agitation, boredom, daytime sleeping and depression.
Agitation can be alleviated when the caregiver remains calm, reassuring and respectful of the patient's feelings.
Adults with disabilities are still adults. Mental level is not always equal to social level.
Adapt the task to fit the ability of the patient. Break down the activity into separate steps, or simplify tasks by eliminating parts that could be frustrating.
Assessment is ongoing. What is safe and effective for now, may not be so at a later time. Keep watching and reevaluating.
Adapted from an article appearing in the Southern Tier Alzheimer's Chapter Newsletter.
Routine will help someone with AD anticipate what to do next and what is expected of them. It sets boundaries that feel secure.
Rituals or life-long habits should be maintained. Don't try to break old habits. For example, if the individual never enjoyed crafts, don't expect to involve him/her in crafts now.
Reassess physical health if there is a sudden behavior change. A person with AD will become more confused, agitated or hostile when a physical complaint develops. Consider constipation or a urinary tract infection, etc. as the cause of the behavior disturbance.
Redirect or distract the person with AD. This can be accomplished by suggesting that it is snack time. When the person with AD asks to go home, say "in a little while, but first, how about a cup of tea and a cookie?" You will be surprised that the person will forget about leaving for a little while.
Real questions may be difficult to figure out if the person with AD has difficulty communicating. If the individual becomes agitated, perhaps they are telling you that they need to use the bathroom. Learn to read their body language.
Reconsider the behavior. Is it truly a problem? Does it present a danger for the person with AD? Or is it just upsetting you? Is talking to his/her reflection in a mirror, just like it was another person, a problem? Should the mirror be covered up? Only if the person appears to be upset or frightened by the reflection.
Respect is always the appropriate attitude when caring for a person with AD. Laugh with them, not at them. Never talk about them to another person in front of them as if they are not there. And remember, a person with AD will know how you feel by your body language and tone of voice.
Reassure the person with AD often that you love them and will care for them. A gentle pat, stroking their hair, and holding hands all say "I care for you." Think how much reassurance of love you would need if you were suffering from a dementia.
Courtesy of the Upstate South Carolina Alzheimer's Chapter, Anderson, SC
Providing care for a person with Alzheimer's disease is often a stressful and demanding ordeal. It is important to remember that caregivers have human needs and emotions. They must care for the patient as well as themselves. The "Caregiver's Bill of Rights" helps identify some of the common and "normal" emotions caregivers may experience.
IT IS ALL RIGHT TO:
- Be angry.
Turn this energy into positive action. Clean closets, take a walk, talk with someone.
- Be frustrated.
Stop the present activity, take a deep breath and begin a different activity.
- Need time alone.
A favorite chair in a quiet room, a trip to the store or out with friends.
- Need and ask for help.
Explore family, friends, and local agencies for services needed. Most doctor's offices and clergy can make referrals.
- Trust your judgement.
Relax, you are doing the best you can.
- Recognize your limits.
You are a valuable person. Take care of yourself, too!
- Make mistakes.
So, who's perfect! This is how we learn.
This is a normal response to loss. You may be sad over the loss of the ways things used to be.
- Laugh and Love.
It can seem out of place, but your capacity to feel is not gone and can occur unexpectedly.
Tomorrow, the day may go smoother, a friend may call, a cure may be found.
Source: American Health Assistance Foundation